Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 13, 2012

Beach Bums win exhibition


TRAVERSE CITY — It could not have been scripted any better for the Traverse City Beach Bums.

The Beach Bums scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh Saturday to take a 5-4 lead, then summoned closer Scott Mueller from the bullpen.

The All-Star relief pitcher, who had a club record 21 saves a year ago, did his job, blanking London over the final two innings in an exhibition game at Wuerfel Park.

"He did what he usually does," Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn said. "He got through it and preserved the win."

The exhibition, which was open to the public, gave fans a glimpse of what's in store for the upcoming season, which starts Thursday night.

The two teams played a nine-inning exhibition game Friday that was closed to the public. The Beach Bums won that 5-4 as well.

"These games were more about evaluation than winning or losing," Langbehn said.

For the most part, Langbehn liked what he saw.

"I thought we were pretty solid," he said. "Defensively, I was really pleased, especially (Saturday). We made all the plays."

After giving up three runs in the second, the Beach Bums held London to just a run over the last seven innings.

"We had five different guys out there," Langbehn said. "We had a couple of pitches we left over the middle of the plate. That might have been more a lack of execution as opposed to questionable selection. Overall, I thought we pitched well."

Traverse City's nine-hit attack was led by Jose Vargas and Matt Howard, who had two hits apiece. The two were at the forefront in the seventh when the Beach Bums took the lead. Howard led off with a triple. Two batters later, Jon Hurst walked and then stole second to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Kyle Colligan hit a sacrifice fly to tie the contest with Hurst moving to third. Vargas then ripped a double to drive in the go-ahead run.

Langbehn was not ready to announce his starting lineup afterwards — the team still has to cut at least three players — but he did talk about those who were swinging hot bats.

"Matt Howard's fighting for a spot, but he certainly didn't hurt his chances," Langbehn said. "He had a good couple days.

"Vargas continues to swing the bat well. Jeff Flagg had a big home run (Friday). Sean Gusrang has certainly done a great job for us (at second). That's a guy that only got seven at-bats with us last season. He's put himself in good position."

Gusrang hit a solo home run Saturday.

The two exhibition games helped break up the team's two-week training camp.

"It was good to face a different team," Langbehn admitted. "I know the guys were excited about it. It breaks up the monotony of playing against your teammates every day. That was a refreshing change."

Langbehn said Reid Kelly, David Deminsky and Bennett Whitmore will pitch the three games at Florence to start the season.

Before that, however, the Beach Bums must pare the roster from 27 to either 23 or 24 players.

"A lot goes into those decisions," Langbehn said. "We can only carry so many experienced players (13) and you have to weigh the value of those guys. We can't keep them all (15 are on the roster currently). We'll remain as objective as possible. We have to make sure we're fair with each and every player.

"And it's not only picking the best guys, but the right guys. Chemistry goes a long ways to having success in this league."